‘Slip Away,’ David Bowie’s Uncle Floyd tribute

by JAY LUSTIG
Uncle Floyd

“Uncle” Floyd Vivino with Oogie, in a vintage publicity photo.

A lot of strange characters have populated David Bowie’s songs over the years. But it was still a shock, in 2002, when Bowie released a song about New Jersey’s leading neo-vaudeville comedian/honky tonk piano player, “Uncle” Floyd Vivino.

The song was “Slip Away,” from Bowie’s Heathen album — a dreamy little number in which Bowie sings about Oogie and Bones Boy (puppet characters on Vivino’s long-running low-budget TV show, “The Uncle Floyd Show”) and croons, in the chorus: “Sailing over Coney Island/Twinkle, twinkle, Uncle Floyd/We were dumb but you were fun, boy/How I wonder where you are.”

How did Bowie end up writing about Floyd? Well, Bowie spent a lot of time in New York in the late ’70s and early ’80s, when Vivino’s show was most popular. Vivino (who is now 63 and still performs frequently in the Garden State) told me, in a 2002 interview for The Star-Ledger, that Bowie once told him John Lennon had introduced him to the show.

Here’s Bowie’s explanation, as posted on his web site, davidbowie.com, in 2002:

“Back in the late ’70s, everyone that I knew would rush home at a certain point in the afternoon to catch the Uncle Floyd show. He was on UHF Ch. 68 and the show looked like it was done out of his living room in New Jersey. All his pals were involved and it was a hoot. It had that Soupy Sales kind of appeal and though ostensibly aimed at kids, I knew so many people of my age who just wouldn’t miss it. We would be on the floor it was so funny. Two of the regulars on the show were Oogie and Bones Boy, ridiculous puppets made out of ping-pong balls or somesuch … I just loved that show.”

Below is footage of Bowie performing the song in 2002.

New Jersey celebrated its 350th birthday in 2014. And in the 350 Jersey Songs series, we marked the occasion by posting 350 songs — one a day, from September 2014 to September 2015 — that have something to do with the state, its musical history, or both. To see the entire list, click here.

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13 comments

Pete Jameson January 11, 2016 - 12:09 pm

Garden State Stomp — Dave Van Ronk

Reply
njartsdaily@gmail.com January 11, 2016 - 12:18 pm Reply
Bob Moran January 11, 2016 - 3:57 pm

“I’m From New Jersey” by John Gorka

Reply
njartsdaily@gmail.com January 11, 2016 - 4:04 pm Reply
Carol January 11, 2016 - 5:11 pm

Palisades Park, Wildwood Days Jersey Girl

Reply
njartsdaily@gmail.com January 11, 2016 - 5:19 pm

All done. Here’s the complete list, alphabetized by artist: https://www.njarts.net/350-jersey-songs-listed-alphabetically/

Reply
Shaun January 12, 2016 - 10:55 am

Saves The Day – Sometimes, New Jersey

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EgCG4fWBufI

Reply
Mark January 12, 2016 - 4:44 pm

Queen latifah- jersey from the New Jersey drive soundtrack

Reply
njartsdaily@gmail.com January 12, 2016 - 5:26 pm Reply
Jeff January 12, 2016 - 5:53 pm

Have any Good Rats in there…

Reply
Joan January 30, 2016 - 12:56 pm

My husband, me and our two boys would watch the Uncle Floyd show every night Monday thru Friday just before r after dinner. It was hilarious; we’d be rolling on the floor!!!

Reply
Nancy McLain April 19, 2016 - 1:10 pm

” Uncle Floyd ” , great ” Homage ” to you from another ” Great ” ! Like you , he is ” One of a kind ” & will be missed always .
I remember , with much fondness , our days at ” Catch ” together & will
try to get in touch , for my next visit to my ” Home State ” , New Jersey !!!

Reply
Joe Green March 13, 2022 - 1:12 pm

Uncle Floyd is still alive. He still does his act. You can hire him, he loves performing. Just had diner with him last week. Don’t count him out, yet. Still with us.

Reply

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